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Orange Order refuses to meet Sinn Fein

By David Young

Published 17/07/2009

The Orange Order leadership today rejected a call to meet Sinn Fein representatives to try to sort out contentious parades.

Grand secretary of the institution Drew Nelson said republicans would have to apologise for the murder of their brethren during the Troubles before they would contemplate such a move.

“It would be entirely inappropriate to consider meeting with Sinn Fein until Gerry Adams or leadership of Sinn Fein apologise for the IRA murders of the 275 Orangemen murdered during the Troubles by that terrorist group,” he said.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams had urged engagement with the Order in the wake of the violence which flared in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast on Monday after a contentious Twelfth of July parade.

The West Belfast MP said the Orange culture had a part to play in his vision of a united Ireland, but said the six or seven parades which remain an annual source of tension could only be resolved through dialogue.

“They (the Order) talk about being a Christian organisation, about neighbourliness, and I don't dissent from any of that and I don't say any of this to undermine the good decent people who were involved in the Orange, but why on earth can't they come forward and meet us?” he said.

While Portadown Orangemen have met Sinn Fein representatives in a bid to end the long running Garvaghy Road/Drumcree parade dispute, the main leadership of the Order have refused to meet with the republican politicians.

Mr Nelson said they were not prepared to give Orangemen the respect they deserved.

“It's time nationalists and republicans showed respect and tolerance for Orange Order and allowed them to get on with celebrating their culture,” he added.

Earlier this week Mr Adams said Orange Order leaders should remove their refusal to hold talks with elected Sinn Fein politicians.

“My biggest frustration is that thus far the Orange Order has contributed nothing to the peace process. The Orange Order still refuses to talk to Sinn Fein, even though Martin McGuinness is the deputy First Minister, even though there are a number of Sinn Fein ministers, even though unlike them we have a mandate which we renew at every election.”

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